BRENDA CULLERTON has a tiny tattoo of an open book on her left ankle. She blogs instead of jogs, shops occasionally, reads compulsively, and is no longer wise beyond her years. She lives and works in New York City. She also writes books:
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This vid is all about how to promote yourself at the Edinburgh Fringe. And I think I’ll just kill myself now.  

Like Benjamin fucking Button. Becoming an ‘actress’ and dreaming of getting a job as a waitress. (That was on Wednesday nite.) I’ve chosen a profession that is not only guaranteed to make less money than writing but that also promises a future full of even more rejections.  How perfect is THAT in terms of planning? 

OMG! Can’t stop ‘watching.’ NEVER laughed so hard.  

JayZ&Me: The trailer

Well, I am  EXPLODING on Facebook. I have no freaking idea how that happens but you must have something to do with it! A million thanks to all!  

You can be my friend (ugh) here:  https://www.facebook.com/brendacullerton

What was my inspiration for the show? Desperation. Period. There is no greater motivator than desperation. Oh. And I wanted to rock the boat. You can’t rock the boat without getting wet! 

Pre Sochi and one of the funniest ever made! 

COMEDY in BLACK AND WHITE  

 

It’s Thursday night at the Comedy Cellar Underground in the West Village.   Ardie Fuqua, a frenetically cheery, fast talking MC  stalks the stage. “It’s African History Month, folks. And I see we got people from fucking Finland here and England and Kansas and L.A. We got Latinos here. I love Latinos. But where the fuck  are my people?”  I look around me.  He’s right.  There isn’t a single black person in the audience.  Yet half of the comics in the line-up are black.    

 

 Greer Barnes, for instance—-a grizzled,  slow talking veteran from the David Chapelle Show and Comedy Central opens with a fairly innocuous riff about basketball. 

 

I know. I know. I’m a tall black man. I should be a b ball player. And I tried. But my vocabulary’s too big.

The house cracks up.  He then segways into a routine about black vs white parenting.  

All you white people. You parents?  You need us. You do.   You ever see white kids screaming on an airplane. Their mothers all smiling and pleading. Come on, Johnny. Let’s use our inside voice.  Last time I was on a flight, I finally  stood up and turned around.

Why don’t you just shut the fuck up, kid, and sit down.  The house howls.    

And so do I.  Not because I relate to the white mother. Or because I believe in  Barnes stereotype of a black parent. No, I laugh because Barnes speaks the truth. Because he says out loud what I only wish I could say in similar situations. 

 

 

All great comedy is based on truth, of course.  Often ugly truths.  But men like Barnes, who is a great comic, give the audience permission to laugh at these ugly truths by laughing the loudest at themselves.   Take his New York City cops on horses routine.   

Barnes mimics the clip clop, clip clop,  the shying, prancing movement of the horses, and the cop leaning down to speak to the man.

You’re under arrest, buddy. Get on.  

Barnes laughs and looks out at the audience.  

 You can’t put a brother on the back of a horse with hands tied behind his back. Barnes laughs again. Ditto the audience. 

  He’s gonna fall off  is all I’m saying. So what they gonna do is tie you to the back of the horse. (And here he mimics being dragged behind the horse on the street.)

 Water, Water, Greer whispers. Mr Lincoln says we free!

 

 

I smile. I’m also uncomfortable (which is a good sign. Great comedy is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.)  But no one laughs harder at the ‘punch line’ than Barnes himself.     And had there been a single African American in the audience, they would have shared the laughter in a way I could not.  They would have recognized and appreciated that this wasn’t a routine, it was a reality.   A desolate, desperate reality. Obviously, cops don’t drag African Americans behind them on horses. Not anymore. That’s a gross exaggeration. But the ugly truth is that it’s no joke, living as a black man in America today.  It’s a nightmare. A fact Barnes underlines, yet again, when he veers onto the subject of Trayvon Martin.

  So, who stood up for him? Where were all those famous NBA players?    You

  imagine if they’d just refused to play a couple of games? Now, THAT  wouldda made you white people pay attention, right? But no.  They all put on hoodies.  Shit.   What a difference that made, huh? Putting on hoodies.  

There isn’t a sound in the room. 

  OK, I hear you. Let’s talk about penises . The room guffaws.

Talk about a  fine art. Not the penises. That’s an easy laugh—like jokes about drinking,  drugs, and excrement. It defuses the tension. But watching this incredibly   delicate dance, the balancing act between what an audience senses is dangerous and what they feel is safe when it comes to acknowledging a truth? And how Barnes makes us complicit, responsible, for helping  create that truth? Sublime.    

  I used to think that paying someone to make you laugh was like paying someone to make you come; that it was exploitative, sad,  a form of cheating. As for stand-up? It was scary to watch.

“The verbal equivalent of rock climbing in a blindfold,” is how my brilliant friend/writer, Brendan Bernhard, describes it.   But this  might also be why I have now become so addicted to it.    I admire the rawness,  the risk, the recklessness. I’m also astonished by the age of the audience. They are so ludicrously young. As a generation that otherwise lives  in a culture as earnest and unfunny, as terrifyingly cautious as ours—a culture obsessed with the selfie and cat videos, and endless Instagram photos of food and beach vacations … Well, maybe, these brief encounters with uglier truths, maybe their passion for comedy, will save us.    

 Then again as comic, Dan Soder, points out:     

This new generation? They’re the ones gonna defend us, right? But how are they gonna do that when they’re allergic to gluten and lactose and fucking peanuts and the sun. How they gonna win a war when they’re armed with nothing but EPI pens?

 

A month ago, I said I’d rather be dead than on fucking Facebook. But Jay Z&Me just got into the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Apparently, I need to be LIKED to get there.   Many thanks to all. “Real” post up tomorrow!

https://www.facebook.com/brendacullerton 

First time since the accident and our very brief encounter. Hopefully, I will not be making an exit via ambulance. (Oh. And I’m not alone.) 

MOVIES

Loved:

The Attack- Amin Jaafan, Director. Saw it THREE times. 

Prisoners- Denis Villeneuve, Director.   Life is short and this was long. But who cared?  

Wadja-Halifaa Al Mansour, Director. A bike, a bike. My kingdom for a bike. (the Kingdom, in this case, being Saudi Arabia)

 Rush-Ron Howard, Director.  Best thing Thor’s ever done! 

Her-Spike Jonz, Director. Siri, eat your heart out!   

Touch of Sin-Tian Zhu Ding, Director.  Hardly a touch.  

The Spectacular Now-James Ponsoldt, Director. Can’t remember a thing about it except the fact I actually remember it. Which means it must have been good!  

Byzantium-Neil Jordan, Director. I thought this was the most beautiful Irish town I’d ever seen in a vampire movie.   Till I discovered it was   a British town called Hastings.  

Captain Phillips- Paul Greengrass, Director.   My third pirate movie this year. And I’m not talking Johnny Depp in the Caribbean. 

The Hunt- Thomas Vinterberg, Director. Shows how it is still possible to destroy/devastate a man’s reputation/life without the help of ANY social media and hardly any dialogue. Brilliant.  

Dhoom 3, Oh how I adore Bollywood!

Blackfish- Ugly humans.

The Eye Must Travel- Lisa Immordino, Director. Beautiful lies.

In a World, Lake Bell, Director. Brought me back to my five years doing Star Trek action figure commercials with a feisty, very short African American voice over king named Adolf Caesar. Adolf Caesar? I mean, come on…   

Philomena. Loathed the fact i sort of loved it.  

The Lone Ranger. Just kidding.

Hansel and Gretel, Witch hunters.  Also kidding.  

LOATHED. (and/or indifferent):

The Lone Ranger. Not kidding.

Frances Ha, Ho hum. (Noah Baumbach, Director.)

American Hustle- David O Russell, Director.  Call it in/anime-zero momentum, not even their hair moved. (well, except maybe for the mane on Jennifer Lawrence’s head.  Which is now history.)  

Gravity- Alfonso Cuaron, Director. My favorite part of the movie was after when a journalist in Spain asked the director if it was hard to shoot in outer space.

Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen, Director. Oh God, where did my Woody go? He’s harder to find than Waldo these days.  Sometimes, I wish he’d just stayed home and skipped the therapy.

LOVED AND LOATHED

The Wolf of Wall St. Martin Scorsese, Director. Loved the first 60 minutes. Left the theater at 90 minutes. 

Mandela. Sorry. I am NUTS about Idris. But the movie was flat.

Elysium,  Neill Blomkamp, Director. Went only because I was crazy about District 9. Which reminded me of the French sleeper, B 13. Which I’ve now seen three times.  

La Grande Belleza, Paolo  Sorrentino, Director. Loved his Il Divo. This one, a failed homage to both Alberto Moravia and Fellini, meanders through Rome  for over two hours and should be cut up and repurposed as a short film for the Italian Tourist Board.  

Books I loved so much I bought multiple copies:

Submergence. J.M. Ledgard. Another sleeper. The only magazine awake enough to rave about it was Vulture/New York.    That review then spawned copy cats at The Times and elsewhere.    

A Pimp’s Notes, Giorgio Faletti. Fantastic Italian noir. 

All the Dead Yale Men, Craig Nova. Magnificent.  It reminded my of a young Salter. 

The Wet and the Dry, Lawrence Osbourne, Should be required reading for anyone/everyone interested in the Middle East/Islam. The man may well be drunk or hung over throughout his entire journey (A feat in itself)  in Lebanon, the Emirates and Eygpt but his vision never fails. I loved this book.

Places of My Infancy, Guiseppe di Lampedusa,  Marvelous, in the old-fashioned magical sense of the word. A slender,  70 page masterpiece.

Ghost Dance in Berlin, Peter Wortsman, Take me THERE! 

A Tuscan Childhood, Kinta Beevor

Divergent, Veronica Roth, Recommended by a 14 year-old stranger at the Strand. Can’t WAIT for the movie!  

Critical Mass, James Wolcott, May this man/critic live FOREVER!

PLACES, THINGS,  PERFORMANCES  I LOVED:

Gezi Park, Istanbul—June 2012

Aire, Franklin St.  A subterrean hide away and paradise of hot and cold plunge pools, steam, and rainforest showers. All dug deep into the bowels  beneath Tribeca.  

Upright Citizens Brigade-Friday’s at 10 for the improv genius of The Law Firm.  

Lady Rizzo at Joe’s Pub, anytime, all the time. A grand, very grand and sexy diva

Storyboard P (see previous posts!) There’s a somewhat lackluster portrait of him in the New Yorker this week.

TJ&Dave at the Barrow St. Theater. ALWAYS go there.  

Pedrito Martinez at Guantanamera,  Finally, on the cusp of fame.  So get there now before he’s gone to bigger, not necessarily, better places. 

Jon Baptiste at The Bowery Ballroom. The man is HUGE now but as brilliant as ever!  Here he is in Paris: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8_rATPi04o

Trombone Shorty anywhere you can find him. 

James Jackson, Jr. A charming, truly gifted  cabaret performer  unknown to all but those who stalk him  at Duane Park on the Bowery. 

Hi,Hitler, Written&Performed by Lucie Pohl at Stage Left Studio. Forget Midler, Sandra Bernhard, and the interminably dull work of Mike Daisy, the young Pohl is the reason why one man/woman shows are about to take over the world!  

Jay Z&Me: Yes, me.  Heading for Edinburgh Fringe? Or Eddie’s Bar on Avenue A. Soon.  

Will add to this as thoughts occur to me. And thanks to whomever is left out there, still reading/skimming. Happy New Year! 

SOOOO Divine! Saw him at some fabulous dive down on Avenue A. 

This is more Storyboard P., the ‘crush’ I met way back when I walked with Jay. Incredible song, too. 

Show’s over. Guess I’ll get into life coaching now. But thanks to all who came and laughed and clapped. God, how I love the sound the clapping!